I had a few nice rides on Mr. Charlie this past week, while Lauren was away. The first was spent just with us getting to know each other. I rode again on Friday and things were a little more smooth. He's a big horse, and very long, and trying to keep his front end up (but not TOO far up!) is a lot of work. He tried hard to do what I asked even though it was very hot and buggy, and he still lacks a lot of muscle to hold himself together with.
We dealt with hives throughout the week, but got them under control on Saturday thanks to a moderate dose of Benadryl. I had never given a horse Benadryl before, but the vet recommended 25mg/100 lbs, and said to give Charlie 10 pills. He's probably more than 1000 pounds, but I preferred to play it safe since he's not my horse, and Lauren was away.
Sunday I rode again, and he was slightly sassy. He got a little bit naughty at the canter, kind of light in his front end and I felt like a rear was very close, so I booted him forward and growled, "KNOCK IT OFF!" and he was like, oh shit I had better behave. After that he was very good! As a cool-down, we walked through the XC course and I showed him the "ditch" jump, which is really two logs buried in the ground, with about 6" of space between them. He flat out refused to go anywhere near this and even popped a little rear, so I kicked him forward and made him take two steps towards it, and then patted him and hopped off. I walked him up to it, let him see it, and then he walked right over it like it was no big deal. We walked over it a few times, me leading him on the ground, and then I got back on and rode him over it. He stepped over like it was just a stick on the ground. What a good boy!
One thing that I worked with him on consistently is learning how to stand at the mounting block. I suspect he knows exactly how to do this, but simply chooses not to, so I decided to prove to him that standing there was really the BEST option he had. He is pretty food-motivated so I used treats to do this. I did it in a few different stages:
-teaching him that when I lead him up to the mounting block and ask him to stop, he needs to wait there patiently, even if I stand and have a 10 minute conversation, or send some text messages on my phone, or sing a little song before I decide to get on. If he moved, I corrected him by backing him up next to the mounting block again. After he stood quietly for a few seconds, I praised him and he got a small treat. He got the hang of this pretty fast. "Oh, so if I stand here and do nothing, I get cookies? COOL!!!"
-teaching him to stand as I walk up the steps of the mounting block. There's nothing worse than getting a horse all lined up with the mounting block, getting halfway up the steps, and having them walk off and drag you off the mounting block! He got the hang of this quickly, also.
-teaching him to stand as I get in the saddle. he likes to walk off as soon as the rider's butt sits down on his back, so basically I stood by his side on the mounting block, and gave him a cookie. I got halfway on, and gave him a cookie. I sat on him but did not put my right foot in the stirrup, and gave him a cookie. I put my foot in the stirrup, and gave him a cookie. This way he wasn't in any hurry to go anywhere, because he figured out that the mounting block is cookie central!
-teaching him to stand as I spend time adjusting my stirrups, fiddling with the reins, making sure my helmet is square on my head, etc. by the time I got to this step, he was happy to stand there all day, so we had no problems here.
Now all these cookies made him a little bit greedy, which I didn't hesitate to discourage. He did not get a cookie when he was frisking me for them. He had to stand politely, not beg, and not be obnoxious. Then the cookie came.
He got better and better with this each ride and I hope he retains it for Lauren!
Here are some photos that Kenny took of my first ride on him. He was a bit distracted and I am super out of shape but we did our best!